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<nettime> Report from Minsk new media festival transit 0.1 By
Nils Claesson on Wed, 17 Oct 2001 21:36:08 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Report from Minsk new media festival transit 0.1 By

Report from Minsk new media festival transit 0.1 By
Paka is Russian for leaving, lets go. Leave. To leave is often the only way to 
Minsk is still an undiscovered Gotham city frozen in time.
Belarussia is the soviet Disneyland of Europe, the recent presidential 
elections in September with an official 87% voting in the elections and 75 % 
for sitting president Alexander Lukashenka is a reflexion of this trend.
The high percentages are taken from the creative statistics of the past and are 
a manifestation of the cementation of bonapartist rule. The president has the 
power and also control over majority of media; the ideology seems to be a mix 
of soviet nostalgia and pure presidential cult. Yes the president is a hockey 
player. Yes he is a self made man.  He is like a father over ten million 
people. The glue holding society together seems to be the fact that the ruling 
party is keeping the living costs down and employment high. To pay, they print 
new money.
This has created a galloping inflation: one year ago you got 1000 rubles for 
one dollar- today its 1500. But things are never as the look like. Vodka, 
hockey and circus will not keep the situation stable in the long run. The 
stagnation put on the whole society as a result of presidential ideological 
monopoly will in the long run undermine the presidential power structure even 
if it can use inflation, weapon-export and for the moment the world situation 
as stabilizers for its existence. The Billboards where gaping empty on the road 
from the airport:
The only adds where banners celebrating the firemen and police-officers of 
So long as the US and Europe fear the Taliban and other fundamentalist extreme 
groups it means x-mas times for regimes like the sitting president. It's the 
responsibility of the international new media community not to forget or leave 
the Minsk scene behind a new iron curtain.
Belarusian artist community has never really broken with the underground 
tradition from soviet times and lives an existence in half shadow struggling 
against isolation and marginalization and the fact that exile seems to be 
nearly the only way to survive and bloom. Stagnation is harsh, stagnation is 
grim, and stagnation will eat your hart and brain and pickle it in vodka. But 
this is not soviet-times, people can travel, people can access information and 
here also a quite new ghost is rooming around society: new media art and 
international networking. 
The force of history in form of new media will and is changing things: even if 
the situation in Minsk can remind of the last decades of soviet stagnation one 
thing is for sure:  information monopoly is for ever broken. The times when 
people where hand-copying or hand printing rare novels are over. 
For the second time, the association for contemporary art in Belarussia 
organized a new media festival with international guests. The association for 
contemporary art in Belarussia is a network of artist and curators that for the 
last three years has been the hope for Belarusian arts has not stopped their 
energetic efforts to topple isolation.
This year the new media festival took place in the local film-museum. The 
festival was a mix of video-installations, screenings and presentations. The 
international guests came from WRO festival in Poland, from Riga Sound project 
represented by DJ/VJ Lennarts and Valdemars connected to Rixc in Latvia, and 
Sweden: artist Jon Brunberg from Stockholm artist group SOC participated with 
two projects: one interactive real-time-video-installation first shown at the 
Crac show in Stockholm one year ago, and then Jon also presented first Utopian 
World Championship 2001, (http://www.soc.nu/utopian  a  project made by artist-
group soc.
I presented a video-installation:  “If I was a Swede a dialogue with the 
propaganda-archives of Swedish families”. The work a 55 minutes video that was 
produced for a show at TV-galley in Moscow this summer was presented as a video-
installation with a Russian voice-over and texts.
Dimitri Plax Belarussian artist and writer based in Stockholm made a 
presentation over Swedish cd-rom projects and his and Karin Hanssons  political 
non-correct project the confessions of Plax/ Hansson. 
The big difference from last year was an increasing number of participants and 
wider spectra of new media art projects made in Belarussia. From the advanced 
real-time video/audio projects of Andrej Savitsky to funny and clever banners 
and gif animations sometimes reminding of Finnish group Katastro.fi projects 
but still with a lot of local flavor: the architecture and diagonals of Minsk 
are transforming and imploding in digital world.
The festivals also draw attention from local television and press and also from 
local design, web and gaming community. Other results were that the European 
Humanitarian University will teach about new media arts. 
During the festival a concept of next international forum was formulated: Minsk 
Temporary Media lab. 
In April Minsk Temporary Media Lab will take place. A group of international 
artists representing different disciplines will be invited for a Minsk week and 
make a project: Look for news about Minsk Temporary Media lab on the list.
You know things are improving in Belarussia. I met a man that had to go ten
days in prison last year for political crimes. Ten days in a cell 3 x 4 meters
with 12 people in the cell and the prisoners smoking all the time. 
-My mother got ten years in Siberia for saying one wrong word against Stalin. I 
got ten days.
The man was born in a prison camp in Magadan, his mother still alive and 
An old Russian saying:  
The things that don't kill you make you stronger. 
Nils Claesson

Artist-film-maker and coordinator of the Production Network for Electronic Arts 
of Norway and member of the Crac-board.

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